Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Legacy of Paul

Next to Jesus Paul has been the most influential figure in the history of Christianity. Although all the NT writers are working out the implications of Jesus for particular communities of believers, Paul in his numerous letters does this on the widest scale of all. That range, plus the depth of this thought and the passion of his involvement, have meant that since his letters became part of the NT, no Christian has been unaffected by what he has written. Whether or not they know Paul's words well, through what they have been taught about doctrine and piety, all Christians have become Paul's children in the faith.

Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1997), 422.

One might write a history of dogma as a history of the Pauline reactions in the church, and in doing so would touch on all the turning points of the history. Marcion after the Apostolic Fathers; Irenaeus, Clement and Origen after the Apologists; Augustine after the Fathers of the Greek Church; the great Reformers of the Middle Ages from Agobard to Wessel in the bosom of the medieval Church; Luther after the Scholastics; Jansenism after the Council of Trent; everywhere it has been Paul, in these men, who produced the Reformation. Paulinism has proved to be a ferment in the history of dogma, a basis it has never been.

Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma (trans. Neil Buchanan; Boston: Little, Brown, 1901), 1.136.

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